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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 18:58 GMT
Imams call for trouble-free Hajj
Grand Mosque in Mecca
Saudi Arabia warns trouble will not be tolerated
Most Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia have used Friday prayers to warn more than two million people attending the annual pilgrimage, or Hajj, to avoid disputes and in-fighting.

Stoning of Satan ritual
35 people died during a stone-throwing ritual last year
The imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Osama Abdullah Khayat, urged the pilgrims to perform the rites of Hajj in quiet and serenity.

At the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, his words were echoed by Sheikh Ali Abdul Rahman al-Hadhifi, who called on the Muslim faithful "to steer clear of slander and polemics".

Saudi authorities have instituted unprecedented security for this year's Hajj - one of the first mass gatherings of Muslims since the 11 September attacks in the United States.

Zero tolerance

The authorities in Riyadh have repeatedly said they would show zero tolerance to any trouble at the Hajj, which reaches its climax on 21 February.

Saudi King Fahd warned pilgrims to steer clear of any disturbance or activity in violation of the sanctity of the event.

Interior Minister, Prince Nayif Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, said authorities would use "all their might" to prevent trouble.

He said that the authorities were opposed to any gathering that was not part of the traditional rites of the pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia has already spent billions of dollars improving the Hajj infrastructure following a string of recent disasters.

Last year 35 pilgrims were crushed to death in a stampede during the symbolic Stoning of Satan ritual. Similar incidents took place in 1994 and 1998, killing 270 and 180 people respectively.

But the worst single incident occurred in 1990, when more than 1,400 pilgrims were killed during a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel connecting Mecca with Mount Arafat.

See also:

05 Mar 01 | Middle East
Pilgrims killed in Mecca stampede
05 Mar 01 | Middle East
Hajj perils, ancient and modern
05 Mar 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Death at the Hajj
03 Mar 01 | Middle East
Hajj pilgrims take to the road
28 Feb 01 | Middle East
Pilgrims gather for Hajj
23 Jan 01 | Middle East
Hajj pilgrims barred in Ebola scare
10 Feb 00 | Middle East
What is the Hajj?
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